One of Los Angeles’ most celebrated dance nights is cutting the music short in Echo Park on Saturday after 14 years of funk, soul and sweat. Organizers of the Echo’s monthly all-vinyl ‘60s soul bash Funky Sole announced Thursday that this weekend’s installment would be its final night at the club.
“We will be moving to a new location to be announced soon,” according to the event’s Instagram page. “We hope to see you out this Saturday before we bounce.”
The news was a surprise considering the event’s track record as a staple in L.A. night life, drawing sell-out crowds on a monthly basis for years before the pandemic. Though Funky Sole was paused due to COVID-19, the club night made a short-lived comeback at the Echo in July, returning with its resident DJ Miles Tackett — the founder of the event known as Music Man Miles — and current fellow resident Hector Waluyo.
Tackett says the primary reason for leaving the Echo was a disagreement over contract terms with Live Nation, which acquired Los Angeles-based concert promoter Spaceland Presents and all of its local music venues, including Echoplex, the Echo and the Regent in 2019.
“It’s a multitude of factors, some that are beyond Live Nation of the Echo’s control, but it was just getting really weird and it was definitely affecting our turnout,” Tackett said.
For a club night that prides itself on generating a vibe that brings in crowds month after month, Tackett said changes with the club since it’s been taken over by Live Nation made it harder for them to continue doing the night for which they’ve grown famous. Some of the changes, aside from standard mask requirements, included mandating the use of clear plastic bags for belongings in the club instead of purses, and putting tables on the dance floor to comply with COVID-19 restaurant and bar guidelines.
Tackett said the surge in drink prices and in the amount of rent needed to book the club — more than $3,000 per night for the 350-person capacity club — made the situation untenable for the event to continue. Representatives for Live Nation have not yet responded to requests for comment.
As a staple in the L.A. club scene for 21 years at various venues including the Echo — its longest-lasting home — Funky Sole’s revival of rare, raw funk records made it a hot spot for locals as well as Hollywood celebrities like Billy Zane, Susan Sarandon, Ellie Kemper and the late Willie Garson, who frequently came to get down while flying comfortably under the radar in a sea of dancing funk fans, promotions and marketing coordinator Nancy Arteaga said. Even James Brown’s grandson, Jason Brown Lewis, a.k.a. DJ Grand Soul Son, was counted as a regular. Arteaga, who has been with the club night for 11 years, says one thing most of the crowd tends to have in common is a love of cutting loose.
“Everybody’s just so happy to go to Funky Sole because everybody knows they’re going to have a good time and they’re going to listen to good music,” Arteaga says. “It’s my favorite to see so many failed Shazams, when people try to figure out the songs being played because the DJs are spinning so many deep cuts that [the app] can’t gauge it.”
As a resident DJ at Funky Sole for four years, Waluyo — who took over for previous resident DJ Clifton Weaver, credits Funky Sole with spurring his love of collecting records. Drawn in by the crowds, legendary DJs and hypnotizing grooves of hundreds of funk pioneers and James Brown sound-alikes, Waluyo said the scene and the culture fostered by the club are essential to L.A. and even led to him opening up his own record store, Twelves, in Long Beach.
“I probably started going 10 years ago and poked my head in. At the time I didn’t know that the DJ scene can also include ‘60s funk and soul and just people playing records, it was completely new to me,” Waluyo said. “Funky Soul just really exposed me to a lot of music.”
For Dennis Owens, the guest DJ of Saturday’s event and creator of the Good Foot, a legendary Long Beach dance club that helped inspire Funky Sole, the club night always thrived regardless of the popularity of funk in mainstream music.
“Funky Sole has kind of been the flag bearer for raw funk music,” Owens said. “In a day and age where that kind of music has kind of gone in and out of vogue, somehow Funky Sole has stayed extremely popular regardless of what the trends are. That’s a testament to the fact that they play great music and people always respond to that.”
Tackett says that although the club night is leaving the Echo after Saturday, Funky Sole is currently in search of a new permanent home. Until then, he says the operation will be trying one-off events at clubs around L.A. that are still to be announced, including a pop-up event during Halloween weekend at downtown bar El Cid on Oct. 29.
I’ve always told myself since the beginning of Funky Sole that this party has to happen, one way or another,” Tackett said. “It’s a place for us to show this music and it’s a place for people in L.A. to get this music. People need to have it.”